Community responding to return of dangerous synthetic drug in Harlem


HARLEM, Manhattan — Residents in Harlem say the dangerous synthetic marijuana called K2 is back on the streets.

They say K2 and other drugs like heroin are taking over the lives of some of the most vulnerable. Signs of homelessness, mental illness and drug abuse could be seen along the 125th Street corridor in Harlem on Saturday.

Mary Pannell is a Harlem resident who was interviewed by PIX11 News back in 2015 at the height of the K2 epidemic. She says during COVID-19, it got worse and she’s doing all she can to help, including partnering up with community organizations to hand out food and toiletries. 

Councilmember Diana Ayala tells PIX11 News that local leaders helped to address K2 sales several years ago by implementing bills to help stop it from being sold out of candy stores and bodegas, but it’s made a comeback during the pandemic.

“I’ve seen several transactions happen myself,” said Ayala. “We have seen an uptick in this community. I wouldn’t say we are back to those days but we could potentially get there if we don’t get a hold of it.”

“If we are not taking care of people’s mental health, everything after that will not work,” said Shawanna Vaughn of Silent Cry, Inc.

Harlem residents tell us they want city officials to come to these streets to really see what’s happening. In the meantime, we did reach out to the NYPD, they tell us they are looking into the situation.

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